I once worked for a small printing operation. On most days, if you walked into the print shop, you would’ve had a difficult time identifying who was the owner, the general manager, the production manager, the shop foreman, or who the individual press operators and bindery technicians were. This is because the business owners and managers worked as hard as the rest of us to produce all the printed materials we created. If there were stacks of print work that needed to be cut, folded or shrink-wrapped, our company owners and managers did not think it was “beneath” them to get their hands dirty and help get the work done.
You will become an effective leader and manager as you get away from the idea that anyone works for you and always see yourself as working with other people. Get away from the idea that other people are at your disposal. If you want respect and dedication from your team members, you’ve got to give them that respect and dedication yourself.
Part of your skill development to get better work and income needs to include management and leadership abilities. Many highly-paid business leaders may not be very talented when it comes to technology. They are not typically the ones who engineer programs or products. They are not the ones who invent valuable patents. However, these business leaders are the highest paid within any organization. Why is that?
Leaders and managers are often the highest paid because their skills are central to assembling, organizing, and directing the talents of others to accomplish major goals. You will increase your chances of higher paying work as you master basic principles of leadership and management. This lesson will discuss a few important elements of effective leadership and management.
Leadership and Management 101
What’s the difference between leadership and management? Generally, leadership concerns itself most with what needs to be done, while management focuses on how to get it done. Leadership determines strategy for a group; management uses tactics to accomplish that strategy.
Sometimes there’s no clear distinction between leadership and management. For example, a senior executive may determine the annual goals for an entire division of her company, but also take an active role in defining the smaller steps to accomplish that strategy. It’s not crucial to have a tight, exclusive definition of leadership compared to management. Leaders will need to spend a lot of time managing, and managers will spend time leading their teams. For your purposes, understand that there are some core, basic skills needed to lead and manage other people.
If you asked scholars or experts which skills a successful leader or manager needs (and I have asked them), you will get a list of 10-100 skills depending on whom you ask. However, out of all those skills that they might include, only a handful of them are what leaders and managers must use on a daily basis to be successful. In other words, there are some “heavy-hitters” of effective leadership and management. The following sections represent the most fundamental skills you can develop to become a successful leader or manager.
Identify and Communicate a Shared Goal/Vision
People who can unify a group to work towards a common goal or purpose make effective leaders. Leadership includes a “visionary” ability; an ability to imagine and describe an achievement not yet realized. Leaders may not know exactly how the goal will be accomplished, but they maintain an infectious enthusiasm that energizes their organizations to push for the achievement. They create a mental picture in our minds that offers each contributor a personal incentive for helping accomplish the goal. When challenges or doubt surface, leaders reemphasize the vision or goal. They encourage everyone to maintain their commitment and work even harder.
This valuable leadership skill draws on other skills already discussed in this course like the ability to solve problems and the ability to persuade people. As you develop those skills, and combine them with the ability to communicate an inspiring goal, you will be well on your way to becoming an effective leader.
Challenge: Your Inspiring Vision
- What is an inspiring goal or vision for your company?
- Why is it worth striving for?
- What incentive does each person have to make a significant contribution?
- How can your company accomplish it?
- What obstacles do you foresee? How can you overcome them?
A Golden Rule of Management
Managing people can be difficult because there is no set of rules to predict their behavior. Thousands of variables affect how you might manage a certain person on your team. Some of these things that may affect the way you manage people include:
- The age and/or professional experience of each person
- Their attitudes about their work, the company, and you
- How much pay they receive and whether or not they can receive additional incentives for more work
- How their personal lives might affect their work (health, relationships with spouse or partner, children, etc.)
If there are so many unpredictable variables when it comes to managing people, what set of rules could you possibly follow to effectively manage them? There are thousands of books on management skills and each one presents a different perspective. As you seek to get better work and income through developing management skills, there is one practice that will help you become a great manager quickly:
“Don’t ask anyone to do anything you’re not willing to do yourself!” (Paraphrase of an anonymous quote)
This seems to be the “golden rule” of management, and it works magically! Most of the problems that arise from poor management have to do with some type of disrespect supervisors have for their workforce. In fact, research has shown that most people quit their jobs not because of the amount of money they get, but because of a poor relationship with their managers or supervisors.
In all my time of being managed or managing other people, I found that the idea of being “below” someone else (organizational hierarchy) creates resentment and kills motivation. Too often, managers feel that they are “above” the people they manage. They feel that these individuals are disposable as the manager sees fit.
Observing that “golden rule” of management–essentially treating people on your team as you want to be treated–will do much to ensure you are effective and respected as a manager. Not asking people to do something you’re not willing to do yourself means:
- Staying late when you’ve asked others to work late
- Actually helping out on projects by doing a share of the work when deadlines approach
- Refraining from telling people to do something and asking them to do it instead
- Appreciating the time, effort and skill necessary to complete a task or project
There are many other pieces of effective management like scheduling time and resources, planning, delegating, rewarding and motivating employees, etc. What you will find as you work to implement the golden rule of management is that many of these other required skills mostly fall into place.
Challenge: The Best and the Worst of Managers
Think of the best managers you’ve had. What made them effective? Enjoyable to work for? Which of those managers observed the golden rule of management? How did they apply that rule?
How to Make Better Decisions
Leaders and managers must make effective decisions. The associated risks and rewards of decision-making responsibility create higher pay scales for their positions. Making a decision is choosing a certain course of action when you have more than one alternative. Remember the following concepts as you work to improve your decision-making ability:
- Slow down. Most of the poor decisions I’ve seen leaders or managers make result from failing to take time and consider the results of those choices.
- Get advice and counsel. People at all levels of your organization can offer their unique perspective on the risks and rewards of a particular decision. Knowing that you sought their advice will also help generate support when the decision is actually made.
- List the possible risks and rewards. Write out the possible risks and rewards for each alternative you are faced with. Use a piece of paper, a whiteboard, or better yet, a spreadsheet you can share with others.
- Commit to your decisions. Being apprehensive or second-guessing a decision you made won’t inspire confidence in people around you. If you want them to be excited about the course you’ve chosen as their leader or manager, you’ve got to demonstrate confidence and enthusiasm yourself.
- Learn quickly. You won’t know for certain, until you look back, whether or not a decision you made is good or bad. You should review your decisions as often as possible to determine what went right or wrong. Ask, “Which correct or incorrect assumptions did I make?” Ask, “How can I keep from making a similar mistake in the future?” Or ask, “How can I repeat this type of success in the future?”
- Effective leadership and management are often the highest paying career skills.
- A large part of leadership involves the ability to envision and communicate a unifying, inspiring goal for a group of people.
- Effective managers don’t ask someone to do anything they’re not willing to do themselves.
- As you seek to develop your leadership and managerial skills, you will need to improve your decision-making ability. Some suggestions for making better decisions include: slow down, seek advice and counsel, list the risks and rewards, commit to your decisions, and finally, learn quickly from your decisions whether they’re good or bad.